A guest opinion: A presentation on what comes next from a county official

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Reader Mark Keesling writes with a report from last week's Republican Assembly meeting, which was about Vision 2025 and what happens now. I couldn't be there, but I thought you'd appreciate reading his detailed report and commentary. The Republican Assembly is one of several clubs affiliated with the local GOP that meets monthly for dinner and a speaker, a chance to socialize and talk politics. (Not really relevant to this item, but Assembly members tend to come from the left-wing or center -- depending on your point of view -- of the Republican party, and includes many who were party volunteers before the influx of social conservatives during the Reagan years.)

Iíve consistently opposed the Vision 2025 proposition since about a month before itís passage, but since it has passed, have at least hoped that perhaps what I viewed as itís shortcomings had more justification than appeared to be the case. However, my attendance at last nightís Republican Assembly Meeting served only to dim such hopes. While much, if not all, of my observations will likely come as no surprise to you, I wanted to share them with you for whatever benefit you may derive from the information. The speaker was Paul Wilkening, Chief Deputy to the Tulsa County Board of Commissioners. His subject for the evening was "Vision 2025, After the Vote", which spurred not only discussion of what comes next, but inevitably, why things are as they are. Also in attendance, by the way, was Tulsa City Councilman, Chris Medlock.

My first disappointment was hearing Mr. Wilkening comment early in the meeting on how he had voted against Susan Savageís proposition, "Öbut the Republicans got it done". This, and other subsequent responses to questions posed to him after the meeting indicated that a, if not the, main factor behind his vote on these propositions was the party involved in proposing them, rather than the merits of the propositions. Perhaps this reveals a severe degree of naivetť on my part, but I would think most people would be a bit surprised at the lack of integrity such an admission indicates. I would give Mr. Wilkening the benefit of the doubt, and assume that he really drew more significant distinctions between Savageís plan and Vision 2025, but this would seem to indicate that he was merely tailoring his comments to what he judged to be an audience with low integrity.

Discussion quickly turned to possible ways of avoiding continued collection of taxes after the project-funding needs had been met. Several options were mentioned, but Mr. Wilkening indicated that there was no legal way of capping the taxing now, though some (Councilman Medlock, I believe) suggested that actions might be taken that would at least be politically persuasive to those in charge when that time comes. When asked if he was indicating that it wasnít legally possible to have written the proposition to cap tax collection at $885 million, Mr. Wilkening grasped for answers, eventually indicating that it would have been legally possible but that he wasnít sure about the exact reason that this hadnít been done. He went on to suggest that it was probably done that way since the ending cost of projects such as those involved can often vary depending upon circumstances, prompting the question "So the $885 million figure is actually an estimate then?" Mr. Wilkening quickly refuted that characterization, but, in my opinion, never clearly explained why, while it wasnít an estimated cost, the decision wasnít to cap the taxes collected.

When pressed to address why there had been no competitive bidding for the bonds to fund the projects, his answer was that a local preference for all aspects of the projects was desired. There was no answer to what the potential cost is of what is really a monopoly on the bidding instead of a preference. A "preference" would seem to imply at least some possibility of someone outside Tulsa getting the business, should they be able to save us a few $million in costs.

Toward the end of the meeting, Mr. Wilkening made a comment causing me to question my naivetť for a second time that evening when, after a pause in the conversation, he stated that "Well, we had to do something". I found the statement lacking in its indication of any significant thought behind the propositions. Itís been my experience that when the best justification for action is that it is not inaction, it is not very well justified. I only wish Mr. Wilkening had been in charge of the Vision 2025 posters. Had they only read, "Vision 2025, We have to do SOMETHING", I suspect the vote might have gone differently. Now, to be fair, I still realize that Mr. Wilkening may just not be the best spokesperson for the plan. However, having heard about half the debates on the proposition, and last nightís talk, I find myself still searching for someone who is.

That concludes the guest opinion -- Bates here again with one comment. I thought "we have to do SOMETHING" was the official slogan of the Vision 2025 campaign. That seems to have been the reason most often cited by people who told me they were voting for it.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 19, 2003 10:14 PM.

The biggest thing I've ever seen in motion was the previous entry in this blog.

What happened to all the discussion? is the next entry in this blog.

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